hmmm another recipient-male-gay masterpiece, stylistically unmatchable. on one hand a 'Downton Abbey' period piece, where Waugh goes terribly wrong, (Waugh was a member of the mincing upper class, writing biting satirical works until this point; this cri de coeur
is in the upper-class sense, his disaster) on the other a Catholic theology work (unknowable to most as such), in truth a perfect portrait of one of the "top 7 families" of the UK (composite portrait), in perfect decline.
books 1, 2, and 3 can stand on their own merits as simply:
1) classic example of the college novel
2) classic example of the 20th century lit piece
3) classic example of theological grace / Catholic novel
what is brilliant about BR is that it is an amorphous work that can be, simultaneously, all the things it needs to be. the bulk of his work, the acidic, sharply-characterized and satirical oscar wildish send-ups of society are "Waugh;" and this is his disaster.--> according to the declining and depopulated UK upper class
the American (or simply more democratic) reader finds this to be Waugh's masterpiece, and the rest of Waugh's work the filler or fodder. Catholics detect theological operations of divine grace; gays see the homosexuality as paramount; and the divide between the exciting "first half" and the cooly-written "second half" remains a topic of critical review even today... even on hundreds of GR reviews.
clearly this work is one of "101 books to read before you die." whether it changes for you throughout the ages of life-- well, that is whatever it is.
did a quick skim, as i deal with some jet-lagged induced insomnia. this "ten minute skim" revealed, I think, that the genius of the work is how it characterizes Sebastian. everything else exists in the book, I think, to blow rose petals all around him. I think
happy fall 2013. isn't a sign of how great this book that I'm re-adding text merely three months later? dove in, briefly, whilst waiting for a bus.
what is this thing.
well, in two words, "a masterpiece." nobody can deny that it's primary fascination for the 21st century reader is its portrait of "the lost world." there is Ballard. there is Anthony wots-his-name. but what other piece captures "decadent aristocracy" as BR. name-dropping it in Hollywood probably gets you at least an open door. and the fact that it was
name-dropped, in Lost In Translation, shows its aesthetic of 'enervated elites' rings true, 70 years later. the work works, so to speak, because, primarily, of this central strength. but aside from this, it's a college novel, it's a 20th cent. decline piece, AND, for Catholics (drum-roll), it is The Catholic Novel. I mean, yeah, it's a Desert Island Book. it's top 100. it's all of those things. but to enthuse TOO greatly about it, is to run into (aforementioned) English snobbery... the Correct Thing, is to Disdain It. yessir
particular strengths: quiet/modest homosexuals vs. 'purple' homosexuals; alcoholism; true decadence; conflict of old values and new (e.g., 'hey Tony!'); Artist vs. Society; Artist vs. World; Artist vs. Aesthete/Dilettante.